Facts About Lesotho’s Culture, Geography, and History
Lesotho is an independent nation-state enclave within the Republic of South Africa. There are many things to learn about this fascinating mountainous country. Nonetheless, the 12 interesting facts provided herein will help you make a quick knowledge hitchhike to its summit.
12. Lesotho was formerly known as Basutoland. An individual is called a Mosotho and the people are called Basotho.
Lesotho is a mono-ethnic state occupied by Basotho. It was founded by King Moshoeshoe I in the 18th Century. Before Basotho occupied it, it was occupied by the Khoisan people who are widely spread in Botswana and some other parts of Southern Africa.
11. The name of “Lesotho” roughly means the land of the people who speak Sesotho.
The word ‘le’ is a prefix meaning ‘of’. The main word is ‘sotho’. Thus, ‘ba’ and ‘mo’ are other prefixes, loosely meaning ‘we’ and ‘I’, respectively. Hence the word ‘sotho’ can be considered as representing a unique ethnic identity – based on culture, ancestry, linguistic uniqueness, among others.
There are many other prefixes such as ‘se’ that can be applied which may not have a direct translation, yet combined with ‘sotho’ can create a unique meaning.
10. Lesotho is a high-altitude country, 2161 m above sea level. It is also famously known as “The Kingdom in the Sky.”
Lesotho is a mountainous country. Being on a high point, it is considered much closer to the skies than other places surrounding it. This is why it gets its unique reference as “The Kingdom in the Sky”. Indeed, looking towards Lesotho from surrounding lowlands is like looking into the sky over the horizon.
9. The junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers at 1,400 m is the lowest point in Lesotho. It is also the highest lowest point of any country in the world.
Lesotho is a highland nation. The joint between Makhaleng River and Orange River happens at the border point between Lesotho and South Africa. It beckons one to the ‘God Help Me Pass’ and ‘Gates of Paradise Pass’. These are the two main mountain passes near this highest lowest point of any country in the world.
8. Lesotho has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa.
With a literacy rate of 85% for women and 67% for men, Lesotho has the highest adult literacy rate of any country in Africa. Furthermore, Lesotho is probably the only country in Africa where female literacy rate supersedes male literacy rate by a wide margin.
The gap between female literacy rate and that of the male is over 15%. This is probably the widest gap in the world.
7. Diamond mining is an important part of the country’s GDP and accounts for 9% of it.
Lesotho is largely an agricultural country. Though, its land is highly rugged, stony and mountainous in most parts making large-scale farming difficult. Diamond boosts its national income. Diamond stones are not such many but they fetch the highest price in the world due to their unique quality.
6. Lesotho sees 300 days of sunshine every year. Rainy season in the country falls between October and April.
Being ‘The Kingdom in the Sky’ Lesotho receives one of the highest exposures to sunlight in the world. Not being a hot desert country and more so, not being along the equator, 300 days of sunshine per year is quite high.
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5. The Katse Dam in Lesotho is the second largest double-curvature arch dam in Africa. It is 185 m high and 710 m in length.
Katse Dam is only rivaled by Tekeza Dam in Ethiopia. Both are double curvature arch dams. Located on Malibamat’so River, Katse Dam not only acts as a reservoir of water but also generates hydroelectric power.
4. Sesotho was one of the first African languages to develop a written form and has an extensive literature.
With the aid of Missionaries, Sesotho was translated into written form long before colonialists embarked on colonization project in most of interior Sub-Saharan Africa. This helped to boost literacy rates long before some African countries established formal schooling system.
3. Cow in Lesotho is valued above money.
Meat in Lesotho is a rare delicacy for many households. Milk too is rare for most households. Starchy diets are common for the poor households with animal sources of protein, mainly meat and milk becoming a rare prestige for those ‘rich’ few who can afford.
A cow, being the primary source of animal proteins, make it highly valued. With a cow in the compound, you are full-cycle in terms of food self-sufficiency and balanced diet. Considering that most of Basotho lives in rural areas, the bulk of their money will be used to buy food with less incurred on traditional clothing and shleter.
If they can have a food source in sufficient supply, why would they bother about money?
2. To avoid the cost of importing food from the neighboring South Africa, most families in Lesotho raise their own wheat, corn, cabbage, pumpkins, and peas etc.
Lesotho is relatively rocky and mountainous with a few locations fit for large-scale arable farming. Most farming is small-scale. Food production is hardly enough to satisfy domestic consumption. On the other hand, food imports from South Africa are quite expensive and can wipe out households’ entire income.
This makes every household, especially in rural areas to do its best to become self-sufficient in food production. However, the vagaries of drought, accompanied by overdependence on rain can drive households into the dependence of food imports during the drought season.
1. Because of its natural abundance, water in Lesotho is known as “white gold.”
Lesotho is blessed with several rivers. Nonetheless, it is still susceptible to drought. It is during extremely dry seasons that Basotho appreciate the importance of water for their survival and this makes them consider water as ‘white gold’.
Indeed, compared to the high cost of imported food during drought season, water becomes some sort of a ‘gold’ reserve that can help them save coins in such hard times.
Lesotho is a rare country in its own right. It is not only one of the few mono-ethnic countries in Africa but also one of the few independent nation-state enclaves in the world. Furthermore, it is the highest country on earth. There is more to learn from Lesotho than you can from elsewhere by simply taking the stride to tour it.
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